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Broken on Good Friday

christ cross stone

In 1983, Eric Wolterstorff died in a tragic accident while climbing the Alps. He was 25. His father Nicholas, a theologian and philosopher from Yale, journaled his sorrow in the months that followed. Among his weary words were these:

I tried music. But why is this music all so affirmative? Has it always been like that? Perhaps then a requiem, that glorious German Requiem of Brahms. I have to turn it off. There’s too little brokenness in it. Is there no music that speaks of our terrible brokenness? That’s not what I mean. I mean: Is there no music that fits in our brokenness? The music that speaks about our brokenness is not itself broken. Is there no broken music?

If we are to walk backwards in our world and if we are to reckon with the true horrors, then we need broken music. We need brave people who are not afraid to linger in the falling-apart places. I do not mean folks who by their disposition only see the bleak, for bleak is thank goodness not at all the whole of it. I do not mean artists who use the grotesque as their shtick or politicians who use our fear of calamity to bolster their power. I mean people who know the Beauty of the world but who also know there is a wasteland in the human soul. People who know Love but who also, deep in their marrow, know how many of our nights and days are overwhelmed by sadness.

And we do not need people to pontificate all these sorrows we know full well but are unable to escape. We need brave souls who will enter with us, who will help us meet our afflictions honestly and help us grapple in the dirt. We need friends who know that we must, like Jacob, wrestle into the cold midnight with an angel or a demon – who can say which just yet?

We need musicians who will sing the song with us – and sometimes for us – that we have not yet been able to sing. We need poets who will write the costly verse, born out of their own travail, and then offer it as gift to those of in such disarray that we are unable to locate the language. We need writers who, after they have cut their skin and their soul and bled onto the page, say, “Come, I’ll walk with you for the next hard mile.” We need preachers who don’t merely give us homilies from on high but who wonder with us if the good news could be true – and then preach with the conviction of one whose very life hangs on this hope. We need the broken ones.

Of course, offering one’s broken self for the healing of another is central to the Christian narrative and to how our faith takes on flesh in every time and place. Good Friday gives us a God broken. A God shattered under a dark sky. A God with us in our bleakest place. A God spilt out as balm for our wound, as hope that points us toward Easter.

18 thoughts on “Broken on Good Friday

  1. I would love to write music like that one day….maybe relatively soon.

    1. I would love to hear it, Ellen

  2. I’ve found it. It’s not in the Christian genre. It’s heavy. But I hear scripture. I hear tender words. And in it I find God there with me. Sitting next to me in dark places. Helping me heal.

  3. I think that the Church does not know what to do with brokenness, broken music or art or people, those who “grapple in the dirt.” I confess that I know why, because I can be convicted of the same: we can’t fix broken, and we desperately want to do what only Jesus can. So many times, and this is why we don’t very often find it in the Christian genre, to be brave enough to put it out there means more wounds as we get labeled or chastised for asking hard questions, for voicing doubt, for crying out in near despair, for cussing. Praying that I will really allow myself to enter into Good Friday with the truth of what kinds of wounds were born for my healing and the healing of others. Thank you for these words today, Winn.

    1. I think you’re right, Shannon.

  4. How about the antiphons and laments of Gregorian Chant done for the Triduum.

    1. those are haunting tunes.

  5. […] writer who so often puts right into perspective the very question with which I am wrestling. In Broken on Good Friday, Winn writes about the need in this world for people who are willing to go to the dark […]

  6. Your words “A God with us in our bleakest place” resonated with me so deeply it brought tears to my eyes. I realized that in giving his son on the cross he is intimately familiar with that bleakest place. And I found myself grateful for the knowing. I forget sometimes that God knows.

    1. Susan, thank you for your tears – and for choosing to remember.

  7. Struck dumb by this, Winn. Probably cuz it is such gracious timing from God to put these words in your writing instrument. Probably I’m gonna havta write you an actual email. Safer for us broken clay pots to stay out of the public arena.

    1. Pots get banged on, ’tis true.

  8. Your words are incredibly deep and moving. Thank you seems so woefully shallow and inadequate, but that’s all I have to offer. Keep writing, my friend. I need it.

    1. thank you, Bobby. I will keep writing because I need it too.

  9. This is gorgeous – so true, so needed. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome. Happy Easter.

  10. Wow! And I hope I might be one of those writers… It is in my heart and soul to be such!

    1. Kerry, if it’s in your heart and soul, then it’s bound to happen. My hunch is it already is.

words have a way of making friends. drop a few here.